Dancing Bear

Ah, the ballet...
"The marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all."
Russian proverb

Any work of media that attract viewers not because they're particularly entertaining—many of them, in point of fact, are dull or otherwise pointless—but because of some gimmick involved in the production: Any work for which the method by which it is created is more interesting than the result.

Featuring noteworthy non-actors in major roles (or celebrity guest stars for television episodes) can qualify something for this trope: we don't go to movies with Paris Hilton in them to see how well she acts, after all. Particularly large casts, shockingly difficult productions, unique production methods... anything that's used to sell a work more than its actual content can qualify it for Bear status. The Oner is usually a Bear as well, and Live Episodes too. A Tech Demo Game runs a high risk of being a bear, if the developers cannot balance its gimmick with good gameplay. Another type of Bear is The Item Number, especially if it ranks high on the Fanservice scale and/or features a very well-known "item girl" (or guy).

Note that this doesn't include works in which outside events make us more interested in it - The Dark Knight certainly got a considerable amount of attention as a result of Heath Ledger's death, but it wasn't a Dancing Bear. For that, see Reality Subtext.

See also Come for the X, Stay for the Y, when the work has a lot more going on than just a bear that dances, and Just Here for Godzilla, for cases where that happens, but the audience doesn't care. See also Overshadowed By Controversy, where a Dancing Bear is especially well-known for controversial moments regardless of other factors.

And no, it's not meant to be followed with "painted wings".


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Aku no Hana attracted viewers mainly because it was rotoscoped, and the quality and/or terribleness of this animation style was discussed far more than the show's actual content.
  • This Boy Can Fight Aliens! gained attention for being entirely animated from a home computer (like Voices of a Distant Star below).
  • Voices of a Distant Star is an amazing short film as it is. What largely drew people's attention to it, on the other hand, was the fact that it was entirely animated by one man on his home computer.

  • William Wegman's works are known specifically because of his use of weimaraners in them.

  • The primary reason people read 100 Months is because it is the last work John Hicklenton completed before he died, and indeed completing it was the only thing that delayed him taking his own life.
  • The DC Comics series 52 was sold not on its content but on the fact that it was a 52-issue miniseries that would publish an issue a week (for a year) in "real time" (i.e., the events of each issue took place over the course of the week following the week during which the events of the previous issue took place). It also filled in the year of time skipped during DC's "One Year Later" event, during which Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were missing. It was generally well-received, but led to a brief trend of weekly miniseries for DC, some of which were ... less good.

    Fan Fic 
  • My Immortal is notable for being so unbelievably horrible that it circles around and approaches being a masterpiece from the other side. That is to say, the draw is not so much the content, so much as the legendary badness of the work itself.
  • There are several My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics that are famous almost solely due to the novelty of using copious amounts of Gorn rather than for actually being good stories.
    • Cupcakes - Pinkie Pie tortures and murders Rainbow Dash. As with The Human Centipede mentioned below, the premise is more horrifying than the execution, and the fic is better remembered for leaving an impact on the Friendship is Magic fandom than for the actual quality of the writing.
    • Also, Rainbow Factory, partially because it's sometimes described as "Cupcakes, except it's Rainbow Dash torturing/killing Scootaloo" and partially because of WoodenToaster's Creepy Awesome song of the same title (the fanfic was inspired by the song).
    • Sweet Apple Massacre
    • The nonviolent fan video Double Rainboom is known mainly for the ambitiousness of it's premise: a full-length fan-made episode of professional quality. Needless to say, whether or not the video itself is any good in and of itself is up for debate.
  • The Subspace Emissary's Worlds Conquest isn't known for being particularly good or particularly bad — rather, it is best known for being flabbergastingly long. Written nonstop ever since Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out in 2008, it clocked in at 3,548,615 words by the time chapter 208 was finished. For comparison, War and Peace is about under 600,000 words. The author has said that he hopes he can finish it all up at chapter 300, but wouldn't be surprised if it continued all the way up to chapter 400.

  • While the extreme difficulty of the production of The Abyss was not explicitly used as a selling point in the advertising, it came up again and again in entertainment news coverage of the film.
  • Act of Valor is a feature-length film showcasing active-duty Navy Seals using their actual equipment and methods.
  • Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, a 2002 film produced entirely by Inuit, is a reasonably good movie... but the fact that it won 20 international awards and was nominated for ten more can really only be explained by people's appreciation for the fact that a film made by, for, and in the Inuit community was able to dance at all.
  • Avatar. The whole fuss about the technological achievements necessary to pull the movie off, including 3D digital film cameras, motion capture refinements, etc. The never-fully-disclosed but definitely astronomical budget and the marketing-induced hype also contributed to its status as this.
  • Boyhood is a pretty standard Slice of Life film about life and growing up. The real draw is the fact is purposely took over ten years to produce as it averted Time Shifted Actors and was filmed at different points using the same actors. So when we see six year old Mason grow into an adult we really are seeing his actor transform from a child into a man.
  • The sole selling point for the film The Cure for Insomnia was that, with a running time of 87 hours, it was the world's longest movie.
  • Dead Men Dont Wear Plaid is built around the clever editing and production tricks that make it seem like Steve Martin is directly interacting with the characters in old movie clips. Without those, there wouldn't be a movie.
  • Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi was seen as impressive due to being a major studio release with an initial budget of $7,000.
  • Escape from Tomorrow probably wouldn't have received as much hype as it is were it not for the fact that the film - a dark surrealist neo-noir depicting a man slowly going insane - was extensively sneak-shot throughout Walt Disney Theme Parks.
  • Fitzcarraldo is best-known simply because of its Troubled Production, and the fact that you're really watching people moving a ship through the jungle, even using techniques more difficult than the ones of the real event it's based on.
  • Forrest Gump achieved much of its fame at the time for the use of digital technology to seamlessly incorporate Tom Hanks into historical footage.
  • Gladiator wouldn't have qualified purely as a result of Oliver Reed's death ... but the fact that the producers made a big deal about how they used special effects to allow the movie to be completed puts it deep into this territory.
  • The Human Centipede, which is about three people getting sewn together anus-to-mouth. The premise is far more horrifying than the execution. Film critic Roger Ebert refused to give it a star rating because it was so absurd, and anyone who wanted to see such a film would do it whether Ebert approved of it or not.
  • Heath Ledger's last film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Ledger only managed to film half of his role before dying, and Colin Farrel, Jude Law and Johnny Depp were brought in to play the character when he was in an Alternate Dimension. Quite a few people watched the film just to see if they could pull it off.
  • The Machinist may be a tense, well-acted drama, but it has also become famous for the ghoulish appearance of Christian Bale, who starved himself down to a skeleton for the role.
  • At the time it was released, "Manos" The Hands of Fate piqued its premiere audience's interest for being a film made on a dare between an actual filmmaker and a manure salesman. Said salesman used a single camera to record all of the footage in the film, and hired a man (John Reynolds) to play a satyr using special prosthetics. Of course, the film became infamous for how bad it was, and later received new interest for being one of the worst films ever screened on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was also notable for being the only role Reynolds (Torgo) made - he killed himself a month before the film opened.
  • Memento, the film told backwards! Probably!
  • Michael Jackson's This Is It wouldn't have been made if not for the fact that Jackson died before the concert series he was rehearsing for could take place, leaving the rehearsal footage that was shot for his personal use as the last footage of him performing at all, and thus of huge interest to his fans.
  • Primer is mostly well known for having No Budget and being made by an engineer rather than anyone with a film-making background. And being impenetrably confusing.
  • The film Redline allegedly went for this by getting star Eddie Griffin to crash a car as a publicity scheme. It failed miserably because car fans, presumably the target market, were outraged at the destruction of an extremely expensive and rare car as part of the stunt. According to Griffin's side of the story as told in "Freedom Of Speech", the car crash was completely unintentional on his part and was not a publicity stunt.
  • Alfred Hitchcock regarded Rope as a failed experiment in stretching the limits of making a film as few cuts as possible. Film critics and historians would agree that the technical execution left much to be desired, but the writing and performances are still well regarded.
  • The 2003 film Russian Ark is a 90-minute exploration of Russia's legendary museum and historical building the Hermitage. The film takes place over centuries, features a literal Cast of Thousands, has amazing costuming, good performances, and so on. It's also The Oner.
  • Sealed with a Kiss is generally regarded as, at best, an average and unimaginative film. But if nothing else many folks who've seen it or at least know of it appreciate the fact that, like Voices of a Distant Star above, it was animated entirely by one man.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Sin City were novel when they came out in the mid-2000s because they were among the first major films to use a "digital backlot" which blended live action characters with entirely digital backgrounds. The movie was also noteworthy for featuring Sir Laurence Olivier a full fifteen years after his death, via the use of careful editing of previous recordings. This was in fact the main reason Jude Law decided to star in the film.
  • Samuel L. Jackson claims he was in the movie Snakes on a Plane only because of the title. The name alone made it vastly popular on the Internet, long before it was released. Ironically, although the Internet buzz led the studio to expect "dancing bear" type success at the box office, the film itself didn't do nearly as well as expected.
  • South of Sanity is a Slasher Movie shot in Antarctica by the crew of a base stationed there.
  • The Terror of Tiny Town is a 1938 Western movie with an all-midget cast.
  • Timecode is not just done in Real Time, but in real time with a four-way split screen throughout.
  • William Castle's The Tingler introduced a "spine-tingling" sensation people experience when afraid of something. Certain seats in theaters showing the film had devices installed so that at certain points the viewer would feel something crawling up their back...
  • Tiptoes wouldn't be nearly as well-known as it is were it not for its absurd teaser trailer that attempts to make a serious drama about dwarfism into a romantic comedy from the 90's, the Troubled Production or Gary Oldman's out-of-turn performance as a dwarf (complete with prosthetics).
  • For Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), Blake Edwards and MGM/UA used mostly-unused scenes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) of the late Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau for the film's first half by putting them into a different storyline via new scenes with the series regulars. The second half, after Clouseau "goes missing", is a Clip Show of his greatest hits tied together with a reporter investigating the matter. Pitted against a number of production obstacles, Edwards' new film became a dancing bear that spiked the audience's curiosity to come out and judge if he could make it funny. The fact that Edwards couldn't became clear when Sellers's widow successfully sued him and the studio for tarnishing her late husband's image. This proved a bad omen for the next film, 1983's Curse of..., which picked up where this left off to introduce Clouseau's Replacement Scrappy.
  • TRON was viewed as this by the Hollywood community when it was released. Many people went to see it simply for the computer animation, not out of any expectation of high entertainment.
  • Wake Up, Ron Burgundy is a semi-sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. It is notable because the film is comprised of deleted scenes, outtakes and unused subplots from the original film - there was so much material that the filmmakers cobbled it together and released it direct-to-DVD.
  • Waterworld generated interest from its floating sets, which caused it to become a highly troubled production and inflated its budget to the largest of any film at the time.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit was sold on the spectacle of animated and live action characters seamlessly integrated across a cameo-laden full-length feature film.
  • Wreck-It Ralph (like Roger Rabbit) also sold itself on the fact that it was cameo-laden, and only featuring video game characters this time.

    Let's Play 
  • Surprisingly for this form of media, Twitch Plays Pokémon is this, due to the fact that the game is controlled entirely by input from the chat, with anywhere from 50 thousand to 100 thousand people watching the stream at any time. What's even more amazing is that they've managed to beat Pokémon Red in a little over 16 days, and Pokémon Crystal in just over 13 days.
    • Fish Plays Pokemon has had over 21000 people watching a fish move about a bowl to play Pokemon Red.

  • Clarissa is remembered for being the longest novel in the English language.
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby received a lot of attention for the laborious way the novel was written. The author suffered "locked-in syndrome" and blinked his left eyelid to respond to a transcriber repeatedly reciting a French language frequency-ordered alphabet until Bauby blinked to choose the next letter. This took ten months. The book itself was well-received.
  • The most widely publicized fact about Eragon was that the author finished the first draft when he was fifteen - he was nineteen by the time it was published (after extensive revision) and also received a lot of critical slack for that reason. Whether or not it has outgrown its beardom is a matter of debate.
  • Though Finnegan's Wake is made by the same author as the better known, better studied Ulysses, most people know the book for its odd, stream-of-consciousness writing style.
  • Look upon this lipogrammatic work Gadsby, in which a story is told without using a particular glyph (past 'd', prior to 'f') commonly found in this script, as is this particular saying. A similar motif occurs within A Void.
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is best remembered for its exposure of the unsanitary practices of the meat-packing industry. It is often used as an example of the muckracking genre. However, Sinclair intended the book to be an indictment of capitalism and a paean to socialism.
  • Le Train de nulle part is a novel without verbs.
  • Henry Darger's The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, usually abbreviated as In The Realms Of The Unreal, is an enormous 15,000+ page work illustrated with loads of "outsider art" that is better known for its insane length and decades-long composition than for any artistic merits it might have (though really, the length and the large number of important illustrations make a wide release of the story very challenging, so it's not like people can simply pick it up at a library/bookstore/e-book shop to judge said merits on their own).
  • To many people, War and Peace is remembered because it's one of the longest classic narratives ever written.

  • The 1984 album Neptune by “one man band” Celluloid is notable for being entirely played on the Mellotron.
  • Charm City Devils' cover version of "Man of Constant Sorrow," the bluegrass song popularized by O Brother, Where Art Thou?, is known primarily because it's done as a metal song.
  • Foo Fighters released Sonic Highways in 2014. Though it was fairly well-reviewed overall, the main grab was that it featured eight songs about major cities recorded 'in said cities. The accompanying documentary miniseries emphasized this point further.
  • Erik Satie's "Vexations" is a single page of piano music with a suggestion to play it 840 times in a row. The first performance to follow Satie's suggestion to the letter took place in 1963, with a tag team of pianists, and lasted over 18 hours.
  • While critics are mixed on the quality of Guns N' Roses's forever-delayed Chinese Democracy, fans are amazed it was released at all. Its actual musical qualities are submerged beneath the fact it notoriously took fifteen years (and a record-breaking alleged $13m) to make.
  • Gustav Mahler's eighth symphony for large orchestra and multiple choruses was billed in its premiere as "Symphony of a Thousand" (most modern performances fall a few hundred short of that number); Mahler privately mocked this, calling it a "Barnum and Bailey production."
  • This video contains perhaps the worst rendition of the James Bond theme you will ever hear (zip forward to the 14-minute mark). What makes it fascinating is that it is performed by miniature autonomous robotic helicopters.
  • John Cage's 1952 'composition', 4'33". It's famous for being "four minutes and 33 seconds of silence", often either regarded as a sublime anti-music or an Emperor's New Clothes of modern art. More technically, it's not silence but ambient white noise: literally the sound of an orchestra sitting there quietly in front of an audience with their instruments for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and not playing them.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen's opera Light contains a piece that is supposed to be played by a string quartet sitting in four different flying helicopters, their music then transmitted to a big hangar for people to listen to.
    • Another Stockhausen opus, Gruppen, calls for three separate orchestras to perform equally distant from the audience. This plan doesn't fit with many concert halls.
  • Leif Inge's 9 Beet Stretch is a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (which typically runs 65-70 minutes) digitally stretched to 24 hours without pitch shifting.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Movie had an extremely well-received scene of Kermit riding a bicycle when he first sets out on his journey to become a Hollywood star. This scene was popular because it was assumed that it must have been difficult to film, but it was actually pretty easy to film and, to the annoyance of the producers, it took focus away from the extremely difficult scene in which Gonzo is carried away by a bunch of balloons.

  • Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is more famous for its troubled production than anything else. The technical aspects (including a spectacular aerial battle above the audience) are the main reasons to see the show.

    Video Games 
  • Alpha Waves is pretty much known only for the fact that it was a 3D platformer made in the 16-bit era.
  • Brutal Mario in general. With the gimmick being lots and lots of ASM that stretches the engine to its limits. It's quite a common gimmick for Mario hacks in general, with other examples of being Mario Fantasy, Super Mario LD and the Ore World series, which also have wildly varying quality of level design.
  • Disney Infinity is mostly notable for two things. It has Disney characters and sets you buy as figures, and it's a toy box you can make other games in.
  • Duke Nukem Forever, if only for the fact that it spent over twelve years in development and won numerous awards for its repeated delays, even outliving the game's own developers after they were axed by their publishers. At this point, just the fact that this game exists and can actually be played is reason enough for many to buy it.
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail was designed, programmed, and illustrated almost entirely by Dean Dodrill, with only voice-acting and music coming from other people.
  • L.A. Noire was hyped on its (at the time) revolutionary motion/facial capture technique, which literally digitized the faces of actors onto their virtual counterparts, along with an interrogation system that forced players to figure out subtle facial cues to determine whether a suspect was lying or not.
  • Lose/Lose is a Mac space shooter that permanently deletes a random file in your Home folder for every enemy you kill. The creator even admitted that the game was made as a funny little experiment and was surprised that people actually played and enjoyed it.
  • Though not developed by one man any more, Minecraft allows each player to become their own "one-man/woman development team" in-game, due to the absolutely huge game world note and seemingly infinite building possibilities.
  • The MMORPG genre (at the very least until World of Warcraft). Just the idea of playing with hundreds or millions of other people simply by plugging in your modem mad even the worst balanced exposure to the most annoyingly ill-behaved players tremendously appealing.
  • The NARC (2005) remake banked on controversy over its drug use mechanic to help sell games. Although it did get media attention, it didn't sell very well.
  • The Nintendo Wii was the console version of this when it first came out; the platform was sold not on the quality of its games, but on the fact that it had a unique control mechanism that utilized motion control. Although later games for the console moved away from the whole gimmick aspect, the original incarnation of the system and its early games were enough to be a massive seller for Nintendo. The Xbox 360's Kinect and Sony's PlayStation Move also tried to utilize the same format, though with less success.
    • The Wii U also tried to do this with its Gamepad, but the reception for it (to date) has been lukewarm.
  • Portal started off as this, being focused on puzzles that require thinking with non-Euclidean portals, and was first released in The Orange Box compilation alongside the heavyweights of Half-Life 2, its episodic sequels, and Team Fortress 2, seeming very small by comparison. However, its easy-to-grasp gameplay, darkly witty writing, and main villain proved that there was a lot more than just a simple gimmick, and it became the most acclaimed game out of The Orange Box, eventually getting a sequel.
  • The Red Faction franchise became notorious for its groundbreaking GeoMod technology and physics simulation, which allowed players to blow open walls or destroy environments (to a level not normally seen in previous games) if they couldn't get through a door or obstacle.
  • Many games and programs for the early Sinclair computers (especially the ZX 80 and ZX 81) fell into this category as programmers worked around their limitations.
    • 1K ZX Chess fits most of the rules and a computer-controlled player into an unexpanded Sinclair ZX 81. The fact that it's missing castling, promotions and en passant and that the AI can only look one move ahead is beside the point- 1KB is a ludicrously small amount of memory. note  It's generally considered an incredible achievement, even if it's not likely to kick Garry Kasparov's backside.
    • Why is this version of Donkey Kong with blocky, monochrome, text-based graphics impressive? Because it shouldn't be possible at all. Sinclair's ZX 80 (the predecessor to the better-known ZX 81) would normally blank the display- however briefly- whenever it was doing any form of processing.note  This made games with any form of moving graphics intolerably flickery at best... unless you were very clever with your timing.
  • Skylanders is a fairly enjoyable series, however what makes it stand out (aside from being attached to the Spyro the Dragon franchise) is the toy gimmick. You have to purchase toys in order to play certain characters.

  • Axe Cop is popular in large part because of the sheer novelty of a comic written by a 5-6 year old boy, albeit with art and interpretation by his 30 year old brother, a talented professional cartoonist.
  • The main gimmick of Dinosaur Comics is that almost all strips are identical, with only the occasional minor alteration.
  • Homestuck has a gimmick which it grew into - its use of Medium Awareness combined with the Infinite Canvas of a webcomic.
  • Many XKCD-comic-inspired Defictionalizations are only recognized because of their inspirational source. The "Tetris in hell" game, for example, is interesting entirely because someone actually bothered to make it even though it doesn't really add anything to the original joke.

    Western Animation 
  • The reason how Clutch Cargo penetrated into pop culture as far as it did is solely because of its Trope Codifier status in using Synchro-Vox. The show The Higgins Boys and Gruber even claims that "If it weren't for the lips, it'd be a filmstrip!"
  • Fred Perry's Gold Digger animated miniseries The Time Raft. Its poor acting, rudimentary animation, and extreme Schedule Slip are forgiven because Mr. Perry did everything (besides the voice acting). He wrote the script, created the music, and drew every single frame of this hour-long animated movie by himself.
  • One of South Park's claims to fame is that it is an animated series where each episode is produced entirely within the week before it airs. This allows it to completely avert Animation Lead Time and be extremely topical.
  • Both Disney and Pixar apparently considered the original Toy Story an example of this. Promotion centered on the fact that this was the first entirely CGI feature-length film. Some of the original trailers featured only the darkest sequences and an 'adult' score different from the movie's, and practically 'forgot' to tell the viewer that this is a family film about two toys wanting to return to their owner.
  • An In-Universe version occurs during the VeggieTales Christmas video, "The Star of Christmas." The protagonists are attempting to open a musical called "The Princess and the Plumber" on Christmas night in order to escape the fate of using their talents to sell dental wax. While some effort is made towards advertising it based on its merits as an actual play, Cavis Appethart repeatedly sells new actors and backers on it with the promise of using fancy, newly-invented electrical lights on the sets and costumes.

Alternative Title(s):

Gimmick Attracts An Audience, Watch It For The Gimmick